Henley Hawks 23-19 Wimbledon
A late Will Benning try saw Henley Hawks edge past Wimbledon in a thrilling contest, despite seeing a 15-point halftime lead being wiped out with just six minutes remaining.
Neither side adapted particularly well to the conditions early on, with both making handling errors in the wet weather. However, despite a cautious start, Henley slowly grew into the game and excellent breaks from George Wood and Sam Lunnon saw the home side work their way into the visitors 22. Yet each time they looked threatening, Henley were guilty of profligacy, either knocking the ball on with the line begging or relinquishing possession too easily.
The pressure finally told, and with the Hawks finding themselves back within the Wimbledon 22 on the 20-minute mark, Henley fullback, Toby Evans spotted a gap close to the line and powered over from close range for the first score of the afternoon. Jordan Oatley was narrowly wide with the conversion.
This setback spurred Wimbledon into life and powerful drives from their pack saw them into Henley territory for the first time. However, the Hawks defence held firm, led by the outstanding Tom Vooght.
Both sides were struggling to find a foothold in the greasy conditions, but Henley extended their lead close to the interval with a well-struck Oatley penalty.
A yellow card to the Dons’ Jake Cleet gave Henley a further opportunity just on the stroke of half time, and a well-worked driving maul was finished by Marcus Lowe who crashed over to give Henley a 15-0 lead at the break.
Whatever was said at half time seemed to spur the visitors into life. An errant pass from Dave Manning was gleefully intercepted by Tomasz Pozniak who glided in under the sticks to put the visitors on the board on 43 minutes.
With their tails up, the dominant Wimbledon pack was making life difficult for Henley and a second try for the visitors seemed inevitable. Close to the hour mark winger, George Brosch ghosted over out wide to pull the Dons back to a point at 15-14 and it was game on.
Replacement Hawks fly half, Max Titchener extended Henley’s lead 18-14 not long afterwards to give them a little breathing space. However, it was to be short lived as a yellow card to Scotty White for tackling the man off the ball gave the visitors a good opportunity to snatch the points, and despite Henley turning over the ball close to their own line, they couldn’t reach touch with the clearance giving Wimbledon another chance to attack. A missed tackle saw the Dons with a two-on-one overlap and centre, Paul Hendry went over the whitewash to give his team the lead for the first time with just six minutes left. Crucially, the conversion was missed, so the lead was just one point at 19-18.
Henley showed their resolve, and with two minutes remaining on the clock, a charge down in the Wimbledon 22 gave the Hawks back possession. With the ball spun wide to Lailand Gordon, his fantastic offload gave Benning space to crash over in the corner, and Henley re-took the lead at 23-19. Titchener’s conversion was just short, but it didn’t matter as Henley managed to see out the remainder of the game to seal an important victory.
Next up for the Hawks is a trip to the Sussex coast to take on old rivals, Worthing Raiders next Saturday, November 11th. Kick-off at Roundstone Lane is 2pm.
Evans, Wood, Crowley, Hakimian, Gordon, Oatley (Titchener 60), Crow (Webb 60), Manning (Collins 57), Totic (Emery 64), Mason (Manning 76), Lowe, Lunnon, Benning, Vooght, Bradley (White 23)
Reps: Emery, Collins, White, Webb, Titchener
By Alistair Beynon
Photos: Andrew Turner